My daughters' territory in the bathroom consists of a few shelves and a cabinet, which is adequate for two teenage girls – for now. The boys also have space for their things, but they find the girls' possessions so much more interesting.
The four-year old once came out of the bathroom with penciled-in eyebrows and a mustache he'd drawn all by himself with eyeliner. Usually, he makes doodle art in the sink with tubes of toothpaste. Still, my husband and I can persuade him to keep his hands off things that don't belong to him. It's a parenting talent we possess that works on all the kids except the ten-year old boy.
He's sneakier and more persistent. No matter what my husband and I have said, no matter what his consequences have been or how much his two sisters have tried to discourage him, he likes to use their lotion, sample their mouthwash, comb his hair with their brushes and spray their perfume. No matter what he does, he steadfastly denies it and then continues to sneak into their belongings. Until….
I found an item my youngest daughter uses — which I'd thrown in the garbage — hidden conspicuously in the bathroom. My son carefully avoided my eyes and I could tell there was a lie or two spinning in his head.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Oh. That's an ear cleaner, isn't it?" he said very carefully.
"Did you use it?" I could already tell by the deer-in-the-headlight look on his face that he had.
"No," he said, trying to sound as casual and relaxed as possible, confirming my suspicions.
"Are you sure?" I baited him further.
I savored a long pause and then I informed him, "This is an enema, Dear… and it's been used already." And I explained to him what one does with such things, why his little sister (who uses a feeding tube) needs them. His eyes grew very large.
But I saw a hint of disbelief. Perhaps he thought I had made up an outlandish tale to try to stop him from sneaking into things that don't belong to him.
So I showed him the box and the illustrated instructions, but I couldn't hold back an enormously self-satisfied chuckle. Plain as day, you could read the utter shock, disgust and realization on his face. He must have washed his ears out twenty times that day.
In my book, there is no finer parenting moment than allowing a child to learn from real life experience, especially when it comes to lying and sneaking. Perhaps my son will now be more selective about what items he filches and plays around with in the bathroom.